No goals, for the sixth successive Champions League game, and the fourth in all competitions, yet Diego Costa, according to Jose Mourinho, still had a "very good" game against Sporting Lisbon at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday.
Chelsea scored 17 goals in winning their group, the best of any team in this Champions League, yet Costa failed to score one. His last goal in the competition was against Chelsea, during Atletico Madrid‘s win at the Bridge in April.
Yet Costa did play well on Wednesday, leading the line with dynamism and intelligence. He bullied and stretched the Sporting defence creating the conditions and space for team-mates to thrive. Indeed, Andre Schurrle should have put the game to bed with a third Chelsea goal by the quarter-mark from his pass after Costa had worked the left-flank.
Chelsea player ratings vs Sporting
Chelsea player ratings vs Sporting
1/10 Petr Cech
With Chelsea already through as Group G winners, Thibaut Courtois was given the night off and Cech made just his fourth start of the season. He could do nothing about Sporting’s goal but did produce a good save from Islam Slimani’s powerful second-half header. 7/10
2/10 Cesar Azpilicueta
Switched to right back to accommodate Filipe Luis and had a comfortable evening. Booked late on. 7
3/10 Kurt Zouma
The 20-year-old defender impressed after coming on as a substitute against Tottenham and, playing alongside Gary Cahill at centre-half, did well again here. 7
4/10 Filipe Luis
Has found opportunities limited since moving to Stamford Bridge last summer and will struggle to break into the Chelsea side ahead of Azpilicueta. 6
5/10 Cesc Fabregas
Played further forward in the No10 role and put Chelsea ahead from the penalty spot after eight minutes. 7
6/10 Jon Obi Mikel
Put Chelsea 3-1 up with just fifth goal in eight years and his first since January. Did will alongside Matic in midfield. 7
7/10 Nemanja Matic
Chelsea missed Matic against Newcastle and the Serbia international, who has become a key player for Jose Mourinho, was a commanding presence in midfield. 7
8/10 Mohamed Salah
Had a rare opportunity to impress Jose Mourinho but did little and was substituted after 70 minutes. 5
9/10 Andre Schurrle
Scored his first goal since September to double Chelsea’s lead in the firs half, but then his weak header was punished by Jonathan Silva for Sporting’s goal. Replaced by Ramires after 73 minutes. 7
10/10 Diego Costa
Still looking for his first Champions League goal. Had a quiet evening. 6
“He was good, very good,” said Mourinho, who pre-match had said he would play Costa as the striker needed to hone his match-sharpness having been short of training due to a hamstring injury. “He wants to improve his condition,” added Mourinho after it. “His confidence is not high, his condition is not the best, but he wanted to use the game to chase lots of runs and movements, always wanting the ball and to associate with the wingers and Cesc Fabregas.
“It was very important for him. I saw him better than against Newcastle and Sunderland. This game was important for him.” That Mourinho kept Costa on for the full 90 minutes, even after the introduction of Loic Remy, showed how much he feels the Spanish international needs work at match tempo.
With 11 goals this season Costa could still match last season’s 35-goal tally with Atletico, though he would need to recover the early season form that saw him score seven times in his first four Chelsea appearances. He still has ten in 12 Premier League appearances. The goals, insisted Mourinho, “will come”.
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